Monday, April 5, 2010

Review: Family Mint

Teaching your kids about money.  Yes, that is way up on my list of priorities for my kids.  I don't want them to make the same stupid mistakes their parents did, I do want them to behave responsibly.

Maybe the timing was just wrong, but getting the opportunity to review Family Mint for the TOS Homeschool Crew made me feel like a complete failure.  I "know" the right answers.  And I also know that just because you've made a mess of something doesn't mean that you can't teach it.  Maybe it makes you better at teaching it, in fact.

But this review coming at the same time my husband's wages were garnished for YET ANOTHER stupid hospital bill we didn't know about from his bike accident nearly five years ago just made it so that thinking about money made me cry, and I couldn't face it.

How is that for a list of reasons why my children desperately need us to teach them about money?

Well, I finally dug in, creating accounts for my three oldest boys (Connor is almost 13, William is 11, Thomas is 9).  That took maybe five minutes.  It is so easy and intuitive.  Love that.

We don't exactly do allowances, but we do have "jobs" that they can do to earn money.  And they do get money for things like Scout camp, and we usually work out some kind of informal extra jobs for camp money type of arrangement.

Family Mint is going to completely revolutionize that process for us.  How it works --

  • You create a "bank" account.  It's a virtual account, no money involved.  You don't even pay to use the service (a paid version is coming -- but they are committed to keeping the free version available).
  • You create "accounts" for your kids.  Each gets their own log in.
  • They use their account to manage their "virtual" money.  They can keep track of how much they have deposited (with you -- so you have the real money, nobody can hack in and steal it), they can allocate it to various goals, they can create goals.  
  • With goals, they can easily see what they need to do to get there... if they set a goal of $60 by December 1 to buy Christmas presents, they can see instantly how much they need to save per week in order to do that ($1.74, if you are wondering).
  • You can create "matching" programs where you will match a percentage of whatever they save for college, for instance.
  • You can also pay them interest (which the program calculates and pays automatically) on what they save.
  • You approve their transactions, so you know where they are allocating their money.
  • You can "lock" certain accounts (like that college account) so they can't transfer money out of it and into their Lego account.
What we are doing:  the kids are creating goals, mostly Scout related, and I am in the process of creating more jobs they can do around the house to earn money.  If they don't earn enough to pay for a camping trip, Mom & Dad are not going to just pay for it.  Instead, they get to stay home.  And maybe earn some money so they don't miss the next one.

We are also creating long term savings goals, and in our case, that will represent the real money they have deposited in a real bank.  We are going to do a modest matching program there -- think Employer 401K -- where we will add an extra 10% or something.  Hopefully in another year we can up the matching rate.

And this is going to make their charitable giving far easier to track too.  They can accumulate money for the month and then decide where to give it, instead of just seeing the nickels and dimes and not thinking that is worth giving.  One thing we have wanted to do is to have a Compassion child for each of them -- Connor already has his -- Manas lives in India, and was born a week after Connor -- and have THEM earn the money to support their "twin."  That's another one we are still debating, but we're thinking we'll start off with a 150% match, so the kids only have to come up with about $15 per month now.  And gradually up that, so they are earning it ALL eventually.

I think this is going to be great.  Both of my Boy Scouts are going to be able to use Family Mint directly in their scouting.  Connor is planning to start work on his Personal Management merit badge, which requires keeping track of his earning/spending for three months.  William needs to come up with an amount of money to earn, and save at least half of that.  Or something like that.  It's a new Second Class rank requirement.  Point being -- Family Mint is going to make it a lot easier for both of them to keep track.

The best part of Family Mint is that it is FREE.  If your kids are old enough for an allowance, I'd recommend signing up.  Even if you don't give allowances, like us, you can undoubtedly find some way to make use of the program to help your kids get a handle on personal finances.  My kids have found it to be very intuitive as well, and they love being able to assign pictures to each of their goals.  

And you can check out what my fellow crewmates have to say about Family Mint at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was asked to register at Family Mint and provide a review.  I only promise fair review. I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.
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